Proposed Titan cement plant awarded revised air quality permit

PortCityDaily.com is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Despite significant public sentiment opposing the project, the N.C. Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has awarded a revised air quality permit for the proposed Titan cement plant planned near Castle Hayne.

Bob Odom, general manager of Carolinas Cement Company--the local subsidiary of Titan America--shows the site of the former Ideal Cement plant where a new Titan plant would be built. Photos by Jonathan Spiers.
Bob Odom, general manager of Carolinas Cement, shows the site of the former Ideal Cement plant where a new Titan plant is planned to be built. File photo by Jonathan Spiers.

The permit allows Titan America and local subsidiary Carolinas Cement Company more time to begin construction on the facility, which is planned at the site of a former cement plant at 6411 Ideal Cement Road. The division issued a notice today that states the revisions “bring the facility’s air permit limits into accordance with new requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.”

“The Division of Air Quality initially issued an air permit for the proposed cement plant in February 2012, but the permit was set to expire at the end of August 2013 if Titan had not yet begun construction of the facility. Titan has not begun construction,” Friday’s release notes. “The permit revisions issued Thursday extend Titan’s authorization to construct for an additional 18 months.”

Bob Odom, general manager for Carolinas Cement, offered the following statement:

We are very pleased that the N.C. Division of Air Quality recognizes the merits of our Carolinas Cement project and has agreed to extend our air permit for an additional 18 months.

Titan America filed for an extension in April 2013 because it was not able to comply with the air permit’s required construction timeline due to the Southern Environment Law Center lawsuit against the DAQ. Carolinas Cement also sought and received a modification to the permit’s limit for particulate emissions (PM) to align with recent changes to EPA regulations governing cement plants. It was appropriate for our Best Achievable Control Technology (BACT) limit for PM to change for the same reason the EPA recently changed its PM limits.

…This modification to our air permit does not change the fact that Carolinas Cement will operate within the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, will consistently work to ensure the safety of public health and the environment, and will operate the cleanest, most advanced cement plant in the world.”

Odom has said the company plans to use the additional time to proceed with other requirements, including a two-year process to obtain a wetlands mitigation permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and design and engineering of the plant, likewise expected to take two years.

While those steps occur on the federal level, ultimately the fate of the plant could come down to a special-use permit that would be decided locally—by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, which, in 2008, gave $4 million in tax incentives to help move the project forward.

The release notes the permit also changes the facility’s limits for particulate emissions “in light of recent changes in methods that the EPA allows cement plant operators to use in calculating their emissions.”

“The plant would not actually be changing its emissions controls,” the release states, “but the EPA changed the averaging time for calculating emissions, which results in a higher limit for annual emissions. Under the permit, Titan’s emissions limits are increased by 22 tons/year for fine particles (PM 2.5) and by 10 tons/year for coarse particles (PM 10).”

Hundreds of people attended a public hearing Aug. 5 that saw about 70 people speak, a majority of whom offered comments opposed to the permit’s award. Among them was Mike Giles, a coastal advocate for the N.C. Coastal Federation, who reiterated Friday his contention that the revised permit should not have been allowed:

This is just another example of Titan getting all they can, all they want, all they are allowed to do, as far as emitting harmful pollutants into our region. Thirty-two tons of additional particulate matter times 50 years is a lot of pollution, and particulate matter has been scientifically proven to be one of the most hazardous air pollutants as far as global population of senior citizens and kids, and adults and athletes.

It just doesn’t make any sense—that Titan had already agreed and DAQ had agreed with Titan’s current air permit they were permitted, which allows them to emit over 160 tons of PM per year—that the state would say, ‘Yeah, you can emit more because the EPA says you can.’ Well, that’s not a reason.

Titan came here and said they were going to be the cleanest and most technologically advanced plant in the world. If that is the case, they should be able to reduce their pollution even more. So this just goes to show that this is not the good corporate neighbor that Titan claims it’s going to be.”

The permit, the hearing officer’s report and other related documents can be viewed on the division’s website.

Related stories:

Jonathan Spiers is a reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at (910) 772-6313 or jonathan.s@portcitydaily.com. On Twitter: @jrspiers